Nobody knew it yet, but Lou Gehrig was playing in his final All-Star Game. On July 6, 1938, at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Gehrig was on deck in the top of the ninth inning when Joe Cronin hit a one-out double to left field. Joe DiMaggio, who had opened the inning with a single, attempted to score on the play, and Gehrig was there at the plate, urging his young American League teammate to slide.
This action shot represented a changing of the guard for the New York Yankees and baseball, and the historic DiMaggio-Gehrig photo is one of more than 400 images on the auction block through Saturday at RMYAuctions.com.
DiMaggio was safe on the play, as the throw from National League left-fielder Joe Medwick forced catcher Ernie Lombardi to come up the line for the ball. It would be the only run scored by the A.L. stars, as the National League won 4-1 to take the midsummer classic for the first time since the game was created in 1933. The plate umpire signaling “safe” is Bill Klem, completing the Hall of Fame quartet featured in the photograph.
The photo appears to have been snapped by one of the wire services, and the writing on the back denotes that it was the A.L.’s lone run of the game. Gehrig would line out in his final All-Star Game plate appearance.
DiMaggio had started the game and went 1-for-4. Gehrig, who was the starting first baseman for the first five All-Star Games, entered the 1938 contest as a pinch hitter for third baseman Buddy Lewis in the fifth inning and went to first base to start the sixth. Jimmie Foxx, who started at first base, moved to third. Gehrig went 1-for-3.
Gehrig began the 1938 season slowly, but by July 6 he was batting .277 – far below his normal average — and had 13 home runs with 48 RBI. He would finish the season with a .295 average, with 29 homers and 114 RBI. Those are not terrible figures by today’s standards, but for a guy who averaged .340 with 37 homers and 149 RBI during his career, these were slump numbers.
Gehrig would be forced to retire in 1939 and was soon diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that would kill him by June 1941. One week after Gehrig made his famous, emotionally charged “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech on July 4, 1939, he made his final All-Star Game appearance as part of the A.L. roster at Yankee Stadium. He did not play, as by then he was the Yankees’ non-playing captain.
DiMaggio, meanwhile, was coming into his own as a star for the Yankees. He entered the 1938 midseason break hitting .328 with 13 homers and 46 RBI. The Yankee Clipper would end the season hitting .324 with 32 homers and 140 RBI.
The 7-inch by 9-inch photograph grades 9.5 out of 10, according to RMY Auctions, where bidding ends Saturday night. More importantly, it shows the end of one era and the beginning of another in major-league history.